An Authenticity Mandate: Business Communication in the Digital Era

By David Henderson & Kit Bigelow

Communication: “The imparting or exchanging of information or news.”

A humorist once said that the most powerful form of communication was the exchange of gossip between two people. Communication – the act of sharing information and news – is a primal need, regardless of culture, and as old as humankind.

Kit Bigelow with David Henderson

Kit Bigelow with David Henderson

The Means or Instrumentality

There is confusion today between the essential elements and purposes of authentic communication and the latest technology.

Many stories written about today’s so-called “digital revolution” would lead us to assume that all of the new technological gadgets and online tools are magically changing us into better communicators.

In the frantic rush by many professional marketing, PR and advertising people to connect with core audiences, they are confusing technology for effective communications.

Companies and organizations believe that a Twitter account, Facebook page or new website will automatically make them more attuned to their audiences and that they will have a greater (and thus, louder) “voice” in the marketplace. There is a belief that new tools will make them more influential; that their opinions, products and services can be presented in exaggerated, unrealistic, or absolute terms; and that their audiences and the public will listen.

The reality, however, is that the answer is no, not necessarily true … and not necessarily for the long term.

What the digital revolution has done is temporarily warp the expectations of companies, organizations, audiences and the public about communications in the digital era. Technology has not changed the enduring need for clear communications or for the exchange of credible news. What technology has altered is both the transmittal and mode of content rather than altering the purpose of communication itself, and therein lies confusion. Twitter limits use to 140-characters. There are times when a 2,000-word story would provide clearer communication.

The Core of Good Communications

Authentic, true communication results when its purpose is to impart a thought or opinion with the hope of a favorable response or positive feedback … regardless of technology. It is the human desire to share news and information and, in the case of business, to create and maintain a customer.

business_communicationStorytelling is universal and at the core of communications. We have grown up with stories, fables, legends. Stories are woven into the fabric of all cultures.

There is immense opportunity for business and organizations to step in and engage audiences through the timely appeal and influence of authentic news storytelling. While outdated and overworked tactics, such as press releases, are generally marketing masquerading as news, corporate storytelling provides substance, offers new meaning and gives a greater understanding to the public about products and services.

The late, legendary corporate leader Steve Jobs of Apple knew the secret to influential communications and how to connect with audiences. Standing on a stage, Jobs would hold a new iPhone or iPad, and share a revealing and very human story about his personal excitement when he realized how the new product might help us to be more creative and successful. He talked about the product’s value to us, not about himself or Apple. We connected with his excitement and flocked to buy his “i”-products.

What does a corporate or organization’s news story look like? Simply stated, it is a story that focuses on the value and benefit of services and products to consumers, clients, and audiences.

Steve Kayser – a communications consultant in Cincinnati, Ohio – recently wrote, “Storytelling content is the new advertising, marketing and PR. It’s a harsh new reality all businesses and employees have to face. They can still spend a fortune for advertising, marketing and PR campaigns, and get retro-returns on their investment. Or, they can do what people resonate with – storytelling.”

The benefit is that your company or organization can become a trusted source and resource to actively exchange news and information … provided that it is consistently balanced, accurate and real news, and resists the narcissistic compulsion to promote and market. Share your own news stories – online, real-time.

Kayser writes, “Whatever business you’re in, you have a story. If it’s a good story, it informs, educates, entertains and helps people to find a solution to the problem they have.”

Kit Bigelow has has more than thirty years experience in issue, legislative and policy advocacy at the local, national and international levels. She has spoken and led workshops globally.